Toyota Gazoo Racing Le Mans Victory – Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso Win 24-Hour Race

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Toyota Gazoo Racing took the checkered flag in historic first and second place victories today at the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s been a long and winding road for Toyota at the classic endurance race. Prior to this weekend’s event, Toyota had entered 47 cars at Le Mans during 20 races and finished on the podium six times.

Starting from pole position in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso won the race following 388 laps of the La Sarthe circuit. The wins help to extend their lead in the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Finishing in second place in car #7, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López, who were in the lead for long stretches of the race, made it a one-two finish for Toyota.

The team entered the two 1,000 hp TS050 Hybrid cars that use about 35 percent less fuel than in 2012 when they entered their first hybrid car, thanks to constant improvement in the efficiency of the hybrid electric powertrain. Kinetic energy recovery is said to be a key factor in achieving the improvement with energy generated under braking harvested by powerful motor/generators on both axles and converted into electrical energy, which is deployed under acceleration to save fuel and deliver performance.

Toyota says that new regulations this season give private LMP1 teams, who do not use hybrid technology, 210.9 MJ per lap of Le Mans compared to the 124.9 MJ available to the TS050 Hybrid, together with 8 MJ of hybrid electric energy. Fuel flow for the TS050 is also restricted, to 80 kg per hour compared to 100 kg/h for the competition in a further move to strengthen the non-hybrid cars, which are allowed to run 45 kgs lighter.

Toyota says the race results are the culmination of intense and determined efforts by Gazoo Racing colleagues from Higashi-Fuji in Japan, and Cologne, Germany, to continually improve the hybrid electric technology which powers the TS050 racing cars.

During the 24-hour race, the two Toyota Hybrids swapped the lead several times. Two stop-go penalties for the #8 car, compared to just one for #7, required Alonso to pour on the professionalism during his LeMans debut to get back into contention. A fuel issue late in the day dropped the #7 car from the lead lap, allowing Nakajima to cross the line with a two-lap lead from Kobayashi in the sibling car.

The team will enjoy a nine-week break prior to returning to action at the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship on Aug. 17-19 at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

News source and photos courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and Toyota (GB) PLC

Story (commentary) © 2018